Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers
In a world more interconnected than ever, the responsibilities and obligations we share remain matters of volatile debate. Weighing in on a discourse that includes both visions of "clashing civilizations" and often equally misguided cultural relativism, Ghana-born Princeton philosopher Appiah (In My Father's House) reclaims a tradition of creative exchange and imaginative engagement across lines of difference. This cosmopolitan ethic, which he traces from the Greek Cynics and through to the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, must inevitably balance universals with respect for particulars. This balance comes through "conversation," a term Appiah uses literally and metaphorically to signal the depth of encounters across national, religious and other forms of identity. At the same time, Appiah stresses conversation needn't involve consensus, since living together mostly entails just getting used to one another. Amid the good and bad of globalization, the author parses some basic cultural-philosophical beliefs—drawing frequent examples from his own far-flung multicultural family as well as from impersonal relationships of exchange and power—to focus due attention on widespread and unexamined assumptions about identity, difference and morality. A stimulating read, leavened by cheerful, fluid prose, the book will challenge fashionable theories of irreconcilable divides with a practical and pragmatic worldview that revels in difference and the adventure of a shared humanity. This is an excellent start to
Norton's new Issues of Our Time series.
(Jan.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From The New Yorker
Appiah, a Princeton philosophy professor, articulates a precise yet flexible ethical manifesto for a world characterized by heretofore unthinkable interconnection but riven by escalating fractiousness. Drawing on his Ghanaian roots and on examples from philosophy and literature, he attempts to steer a course between the extremes of liberal universalism, with its tendency to impose our values on others, and cultural relativism, with its implicit conviction that gulfs in understanding cannot be bridged. Cosmopolitanism, in Appiah's formulation, balances our "obligations to others" with the "value not just of human life but of particular human lives"—what he calls "universality plus difference." Appiah remains skeptical of simple maxims for ethical behavior—like the Golden Rule, whose failings as a moral precept he swiftly demonstrates—and argues that cosmopolitanism is the name not "of the solution but of the challenge."
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"A brilliant and humane philosophy for our confused age."—Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell
Kwame Anthony Appiah's landmark new work, featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, challenges the separatist doctrines espoused in books like Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations. Reviving the ancient philosophy of "cosmopolitanism," a school of thought that dates to the Cynics of the fourth century BC, Appiah traces its influence on the ethical legacies of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Raised in Ghana, educated in England, and now a distinguished professor in the United States, Appiah promises to create a new era in which warring factions will finally put aside their supposed ideological differences and will recognize that the fundamental values held by all human beings will usher in a new era of global understanding.
About the Author | Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at Princeton University. His earlier books include The Ethics of Identity and Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy. He lives in Pennington, New Jersey.
For more information see: www.amazon.com